Monday with Merton


The lights of prayer that make us imagine we are beginning to be angels are sometimes only signs that we are finally beginning to be men. We do not have a high enough opinion of our own nature. We think we are at the gates of heaven and we are only just beginning to come into our own realm as free and intelligent beings.” 

― Thomas Merton, The Ascent to Truth


Monday with Merton


Quiet, grey afternoon. It is warmer. Birds sing. There will be more rain. Cocks crowing in the afternoon silence, very distant. A thunderstorm. The first I have sat through in the hermitage. Here you really can watch a storm. White snakes of lightning suddenly stand out in the sky and vanish. The valley is clouded with rain as white as milk. All the hills vanish. The thunder cracks and beats. Rain comes flooding down from the roof eaves, and grass looks twice as green as before. Not to be known, not to be seen. Father Gabriel Sweeney, the little white-haired Passionist who is in the novitiate, who asked to leave before Easter, and was dissuaded by Reverend Father, stands with a piteous expression in the novitiate library reading Relax and Live. Sooner or later they come to that.
Janua Coeli: the Gate of Heaven. How different prayer is here at the hermitage. Clarity—direction—to Christ the Lord for the great gift—the passage out of this world to the Father, entry into the kingdom. I know what I am here for. May I be faithful to this awareness.

A Language of Ineffable Words

Just a few short musings on Thanksgiving Friday

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An Athonite elder said: “A monk does not just study dogmas; he lives by them. When he reads the Holy Scripture or the patristic writings, he is not doing it to gain knowledge but to learn a language of ineffable words with which God speaks through one’s prayer. — Sayings of the Desert Fathers

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Sometimes I think there needs to be much more reading of Holy Scripture and the Fathers and much less of theology and philosophy. Even some Shakespeare now and then wouldn’t hurt at all.

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After I became Catholic, there were many writers that I loved to read that simply fell off my radar screen, C. S. Lewis being one of them. Just this week, I asked myself, why should that be? I couldn’t come up with an answer other than that he isn’t Catholic. This year, I’ve been studying Church history, mostly from the late Roman era through the Middle Ages. As part of that, I read C. S. Lewis’ last book, The Discarded Image, a very interesting introduction to the medieval world view. Other than that, I’ve read little or nothing of Lewis since I came into the Church. I regret this and hope to broaden my horizons in 2015.

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I saw an interesting column this week by Fr. Mark Pilon on The Catholic Thing site about the benefits of having a less visible papacy. He makes one interesting point arising from Pope Francis style that I think is easy to overlook, it harms ecumenical relations between east and west. Here is one quote:

“Let me explain . . ., beginning with the ecumenical. The eastern hierarchies have always had a grave concern – indeed, real fear – about papal dominance of the episcopal order. This fear only increased in the age of mass media and with a pope constantly taking to the airwaves and other media to express not only Church teaching, but his personal opinions on just about any subject.”

The problem is that Pope Francis is all too willing to give voice to his opinion on just about anything at any time. Such a public pope, as Fr. Pilon points out, distorts the true understanding of the relationship within the Church amongst all bishops. I can’t help but wonder if it’s not time to rethink the idea of Pope as celebrity. Here is the full article and it’s worth a read.



We Have the Same Boss

A 7 Quick Takes post, hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler
“When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.” Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

imageI remember when Archbishop Sheen was on TV and hugely popular. At the time Milton Berle was king of Tuesday nights, but Sheen beat him out in terms of ratings; up to 10 million viewers a night tuned in to see him. Can you imagine anything like that happening today, especially considering the show was just him on a TV studio set with a chalk board; no fancy graphics, video, sound, nothing. Quite an accomplishment.

In case you’re interested, Berle was good natured about their rivalry, reportedly once joking that, “We both work for the same boss, Sky Chief Supreme,” referring to Texaco gasoline, the company that sponsored both their shows.

“Truth has nothing to do with the number of people it convinces.” Paul Claudel

The clarinet playing continues apace. After the second lesson, it looks like the pattern will be for me to practice a lot allowing the lessons to be opportunities to correct errors in technique and to build good habits, one small step at a time. I like that approach because I always felt, while playing in school, that there was never enough time to build a solid foundation in technique and just plain understanding of the instrument. As they say, onward and upward!

I saw in the news yesterday that an FSSP priest, 28 year old Fr. Kenneth Walker, was shot and killed in Phoenix. I haven’t heard any further news of what provoked the attack, if anything, but please take some extra time over this next week to pray for him and for the full recovery of the two priests who were also attacked and survived.

In fits and starts, we’ve begun to study Latin. I’ve had it in mind to start attending the Latin Mass again. Lately, as you might judge from the post of earlier this week, I go through spells when I think what’s been done to the Mass in the last half-century, is nearly criminal. All the mystery has been removed from it. The only solution appears to be returning to the pre-Vatican II Liturgy. To do that, though, I have a strong sense that I’d like to have, at a minimum, a rudimentary understanding of Latin. I don’t know if that’s really necessary or not, but the feeling is there.

The study itself is turning out to be a little easier than anticipated, there are only a few letters pronounced differently than in English, and the general principles of grammar seems easy enough to pick up. In any case, it’s keeping me busy in retirement.

I may have posted this quote from St. Ignatius recently, but I keep coming back to it, churning it over and over in my mind:

“Be slow to speak, and only after having first listened quietly, so that you may understand the meaning, leanings, and wishes of those who do speak. Thus you will better know when to speak and when to be silent.” Saint Ignatius

The thing I would desperately love to be better at is listening, and listening quietly, letting the other person make their point and respecting that. The first thing that came to mind after I read this quote is that what Ignatius is asking for is showing of the love of neighbor. He wants us to make the effort to get into the other person’s place and heart, to understand their leanings and meanings and wishes of someone who is speaking. That is actually quite difficult, for me anyway. It would be quite good to know when to speak, but most of all, when to keep silent.


“I tell you the solemn truth, that the doctrine of the Trinity is not so difficult to accept for a working proposition as any one of the axioms of physics.” Henry Adams

Sunday is the Most Holy Trinity. Henry Adams makes a great point, if you can believe what physicists seem to be saying about reality these days, you’d probably end up going insane, it’s so far beyond anything we seem to be able to comprehend. Yet, you’d believe it. Why not put some faith in the Holy Trinity.

A Prayer of St. Gregory Nazianzen

imageTo The All-Transcendent God

O All-Transcendent God
(and what other name could describe you?),
what words can hymn Your praises?
No word does You justice.
What mind can probe Your secret?
No mind can encompass You.
You are alone beyond the power of speech,
yet all that we speak stems from You.
You are alone beyond the power of thought,
yet all that we can conceive springs from You.
All things proclaim You,
those endowed with reason and those bereft of it.
All the expectation and pain of the world coalesces in You.
All things utter a prayer to You,
a silent hymn composed by You.
You sustain everything that exists,
and all things move together to Your orders.
You are the goal of all that exists.
You are one and You are all,
yet You are none of the things that exist,
neither a part nor the whole.
You can avail Yourself of any name;
how shall I call You,
the only unnameable?
All-transcendent God!

A Prayer of St. Basil the Great


O God and Lord of the Powers, and Maker of all creation, Who, because of Thy clemency and incomparable mercy, didst send Thine Only-Begotten Son and our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind, and with His venerable Cross didst tear asunder the record of our sins, and thereby didst conquer the rulers and powers of darkness; receive from us sinful people, O merciful Master, these prayers of gratitude and supplication, and deliver us from every destructive and gloomy transgression, and from all visible and invisible enemies who seek to injure us. Nail down our flesh with fear of Thee, and let not our hearts be inclined to words or thoughts of evil, but pierce our souls with Thy love, that ever contemplating Thee, being enlightened by Thee, and discerning Thee, the unapproachable and everlasting Light, we may unceasingly render confession and gratitude to Thee: The eternal Father, with Thine Only-Begotten Son, and with Thine All-Holy, Gracious, and Life-Giving Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

A Prayer from Pope St. Clement I


In The Name Of The Whole Christian People.

We beg you, Master,
be our help and strength.
Save those among us who are oppressed,
have pity on the lowly,
and lift up the fallen.
Heal the sick,
bring back the straying,
and feed the hungry.
Release those in prison,
steady those who falter,
and strengthen the fainthearted.
Let all nations come to know you, the one God,
with your Son Jesus Christ,
and us your people and sheep of your pasture.
Do not keep count of the sins of your servants,
but purify us through the bath of your truth
and direct our steps.
Help us to walk in holiness of heart,
and to do what is good and pleasing in your eyes
and in the eyes of our rulers.
Master, let your face shine on us
to grant us every good in peace,
protect us by your powerful hand,
deliver us from every evil by the might of your arm.
Grant us and all who dwell on this earth
peace and harmony, O Lord.

This is the second in the series I’m doing during this Easter season consisting in prayers from the Early Church.

Copyright © Catholic Doors Ministry



A Prayer of St Augustine

imageO Lord,

the house of my soul is narrow;

enlarge it that you may enter in.

It is ruinous, O repair it!

It displeases your sight.

I confess it, I know.

But who shall cleanse it,

to whom shall I cry but to you?

Cleanse me from my secret faults, O Lord,

and spare your servant from strange sins.


This is the first of a weekly series which amounts to my sharing early Christian prayers each Monday during this Easter season. I hope you enjoy.

Feast of St Patrick

imageAs I arise today,

may the strength of God pilot me,

the power of God uphold me,

the wisdom of God guide me.

May the eye of God look before me,

the ear of God hear me,

the word of God speak for me.

May the hand of God protect me,

the way of God lie before me,

the shield of God defend me,

the host of God save me.

May Christ shield me today.

Christ with me, Christ before me,

Christ behind me,

Christ in me, Christ beneath me,

Christ above me,

Christ on my right, Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit,

Christ when I stand,

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.